"Paddington 2" rolls into theaters this Friday and Euro correspondent Fahnia Thomas spoke with the cast about adult marmalade and "galactical" adventures. The scope and storybook whimsy of the first film are recaptured, albeit in a broader, more realistic manner this time around. That's exactly the book that innocent Paddington wanted to send to his aunt in South America.
If you haven't seen the trailers, filmmaker Paul King returns to direct the sequel, which picks up with Paddington Bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw) who has now settled into his life with the Brown family. It's terribly expensive so the bear takes on odd jobs and isn't really successful at a lot of them. Now, obviously the film doesn't go into much detail about what his fellow cellmates are rotting away in jail for, but still admirably seeks to stick by Paddington's creed; he pushes forward seeking out the best in people and somehow finds it, even among what should be the worst of the worst society has to offer. Gleeson adds a twist to the movie, because, to complement Paddington's charm, he becomes an impromptu companion and the adventures just continue from there. (He and Paddington coveted the same curio in that shop, a pop-up book that clearly has more than aesthetic value.) Grant shines nearly as brightly here as he did in "Florence Foster Jenkins", finding the flawless mix of nastiness and harmlessness that makes for a great kiddie villain.
But the most influential factor in "Paddington 2's" success is its heart.
Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw) had his eye on that pop-up book, you see. Paddington starts picking up odd jobs to save up, but before he can purchase the one-of-a-kind present, the devious Phoenix Buchanan (Grant) swoops in and steals the treasure from the store, for mysterious reasons.
At the same time Paddington is in prison, his adopted family (led by Sally Hawkins and Hugh Bonneville) try to clear their bear's good name and get him back home.
Paddington spreads marmalade ever where he goes and this time he's using it to hunt the flawless present and catch a caper.
You know a movie knows what it's doing when it casts Brendan Gleeson as a surly prison chef named Knuckles McGinty. Everyone everywhere should embrace every single thing Paddington stands for.
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Through the annals of anthropomorphization, Paddington strides like a colossus - utterly human, completely bear.
But the real draw of Paddington and his friends are the warm, cute characters straight out of a bed time story book.
As a movie aimed for children, "Paddington 2" never reaches the transcendent emotional depths of, say, a "Coco"; the narrative pedals a simplistic mystery that any audience member older than 12 years old will solve before the question is even posed.
Obvious and subtly pointed metaphors for immigration aside, Paddington 2 also shows an exponential leap forward for King as a director.
I recommend this light-hearted, feel-good movie to children of all ages, and they should even take their kids with them.
Has Hugh Grant changed at all since making Notting Hill? Much like its central protagonist, the film bounces along with an effervescent air that seeks to make everyone's day a little brighter, and is helped along the way by several doses of humor.
PADDINGTON 2 hits theaters this Friday. As we see in a gloriously animated sequence, in which Paddington finds himself happily lost amid the book's three-dimensional pages, it's the ideal gift for someone who, like Lucy, always wanted to visit the city but never got the chance. Yes, this is a big sprawling live-action cartoon about a bear, but it's also a story about how the little acts of kindness that anyone can do add up to something bigger and make the world a better place.